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The volcanic island of Motutapu is an archaeologist’s haven found immediately to the northeast of Auckland, New Zealand.
In geographical terms it contrasts starkly with neighbouring island, Rangitoto which is characterised by forest and steep slopes. Motutapu is more suitable for relaxing camping trips with its gentle rolling hills, vast wet grassland and quiet bays.
It is a historically significant island and, before the emergence of the volcano some 700 years ago, was densely inhabited by the Maori people for over 100 years. Due to the many layers of ash, there are over 370 well-preserved archaeological sites displaying human and dog footprints, farms and storage pits.
Alongside the Maori sites, there is a wide selection of fascinating World War II remains including a 6” gun emplacement, radar rooms, shelters and observation posts which were used to defend against Japanese warships.
Motutapu is also home to a large number of birds including the bellbird, tui, red-crowned parakeet, Coromandel brown kiwi, Caspian tern and many more. Gardiners Gap is the best place for spotting shorebirds whereas Home Bay is better for seeing forest dwelling species.
You can enjoy brilliant family days out on the island too. You could organise a lovely picnic in Home Bay where the water is shallow and safe for playing, or take your children fishing along the stunning coastline. There is a campsite in Home Bay but you will need to bring food and drink, a camping stove and your own tent.
Experienced kayakers can explore the Motuihe and Waiheke Islands on their own or there are guided tours which you can book in Auckland.
The ferry crossing between Auckland and Motutapu arrives in Home Bay on the east coast, with one sailing every week lasting around half an hour.